The only thing to do in Paris on a Sunday is to go join the masses in the Marais and eat falafel! (Also, being the Jewish area of the city, it’s the only arrondissement to have shops open on Sunday – need I say more?)
The first time I ever tried falafel was while living in London, and I was hooked from my first bite. I was lucky enough to live just down the road from a hole-in-the-wall shop on North End Road in West Kensington – from what I remember, they did really good things with the cabbage slaw and pickles…all rolled up tightly in a thin pita bread. I’m sure their profits dropped significantly when I moved out of the area…I have no clue what it was called and no clue if it still exists but I still have dreams about those falafel.
The next best falafel place I came across was in Montreal, called Boustan (on Rue Crescent). It was very close to my office, and so I went there often. Their version was different again…the standard chickpea falafel balls and grilled eggplant…but they also included some other lightly fried veggies like cauliflower and potato cubes, and some sort of middle eastern pancake thing, with a bit of pickled radish, shredded cabbage etc etc, and then rolled up and placed over a char grill to get warm on the inside and a little crunchy on the outside. Ahhhh they are SO good, my mouth waters as I write about it.
Then we moved to Paris, where I was very happy to learn of a falafel culture. There is much info out there on where to get the best falafel, but now having tried the 4 big names (all situated around Rue des Rosiers in the 4eme)…I think I can safely provide a ranking that will not disappoint.
First place: L’As du Fallafel – the queues here are unbelievable, even in the middle of winter…if you’re past the Eleven Paris boutique, you’ve got at least a 30 minute wait!
A close second: King Falafel Palace
Third place: Mi-Va-Mi
I thought there was going to be another joint to put into the running, Chez Marianne. We were with friends today who had never tried a falafel before, so we decided to give it a test. It was such a disappointment (a measley two falafel balls which had no flavor, and the rest of the fillings were just mediocre). So bad that, as G and I had decided to share one between us and we still had room, we went directly to King Falafel Palace and got another one (as always the queue at L’As du Fallafel was way too long), as did our friends. There was no comparison – KFP’s falafel has so much more flavor (I definitely pick up cumin being used in their chickpea mix). Our friends agreed! Next time though, I’m going back to L’As du Fallafel as it’s been way too long since I had a fix.